The trouble with aphorisms like this is that they seem to be bracing and encouraging but don’t always bear scrutiny. This one leapt out at me recently – it seemed to hit the spot on a day that everything felt flat and aimless. Yes! I thought, that’s what I have to do: think about what’s important and do something about it. Not that easy, as it turned out.
At what point should one take this advice – age six? Perhaps that’s a little early – how wise is a six year old anyway? Then again perhaps not. At six, little girls who want to be ballet dancers, for example, are probably already swooping around in leotards or clutching a barre and pointing their little toes at the ceiling. But six-year olds planning to be astronauts generally evolve into toolmakers or teachers or accountants – and just as well, otherwise there would by now be an almighty traffic jam thoughout the solar system. All the budding firemen and engine drivers and film stars and TV presenters change their tiny minds a dozen times between six and sixteen, when they should be starting to think seriously about what is really important to them and how to build their lives around it.
Had I taken this advice at different times of my life I could have been a singer, an actress, a horse-wrangler, a doctor, an accountant, a lawyer or a spy. And that’s just off the top of my head. I don’t remember thinking that I wanted to be a secretary or bookkeeper or work in a bookshop or manage offices or write or paint, but those are what I actually ended up doing. Oh, and be a wife and mother and housekeeper and all that. Not by planning, but by stumbling into things along the way.
At what point do we know enough about ourselves to make decisions this weighty? Or think things out properly? And even if we did, the importance or otherwise of things change all the time. Priorities shift, even from day to day. Pressures mount and subside. Plans fall through. Emergencies arise. Dreams fade and others take their place. It wouldn’t have made a scrap of difference if I had thought about some grand plan at six or even sixteen – real life would have got in the way as usual.
As for that flat and aimless day which started all this – at least I got a blogpost about the problem.